"We're not a political group; we're campaigning to keep local NHS services free and not-for-profit, which surely is what Salford City Council wants too" Mary Eminson
A group striving to safeguard the future of the NHS in Salford has been left dismayed after being barred from campaigning at Salford's Fit City Centres.
The Salford: NHS Support Group had been using several of the sites since February, after gaining permission from staff to petition and raise awareness of the changes and threats to vital public health services.
Holding events at the centres had allowed the group to speak to members of the public, who are still largely in the dark about the widespread national overhauls, about how they could affect their communities in Salford.
It also enabled them to collect over 2000 signatures for a petition pressurising the Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who now control the majority of the local NHS budget and contract key services, to adopt a constitution.
In its petition, which was presented to the CCG last week, the group want commitments to protect Salford's state-funded health care from privatisation, guarantee its continued quality in the future and ensure residents are consulted before the group makes changes to contracts.
The group found that it had been prevented from campaigning on any Fit City site when attempting to organise further events on the 16th March, allegedly after executives from Salford Community Leisure sent an instruction to staff. This was despite previously gaining permission from some of the leisure centre managers to talk to customers.
"We were really disappointed because we're not a political group; we're campaigning to keep local NHS services free and not-for-profit, which surely is what Salford City Council wants too" says Mary Eminson, one of the members of the group, who also uses the city's Gateway centres to campaign.
"Staff have been great with helping us set up but they told us that the Chief Executive had told them that no petitions could be signed on the premises, and we'd been refused a stall there despite keeping to centre rules and having no problems with anyone in the past" she adds "It's a shame to muzzle us as not many local people fully know what's happening.
"We're just trying to make sure that the people of Salford have the information to ensure they continue to be provided with a sufficient, high quality and free service" she explains "The Executives' decision means that we will no longer be able to get the message out to the hundreds of people we meet at these events. We've been overwhelmed by the support of public at the stalls."
Spokespeople representing Salford Fit City failed to provide a comment explaining why they had imposed the ban.
Despite the setback the group will continue to campaign on the streets and put pressure on the Salford Health and Wellbeing Board and the CCG, who have agreed to meet with campaigners later this month.
They are also encouraging people to attend the next Salford:NHS Support Group meeting which will be held on Thursday 11th April in Eccles and the first Salford Health and Wellbeing Board meeting at 2pm in the Salford Civic Centre in Swinton on April 18th.
For more details, information and to get involved with the group go to their website: www.salfordnhssupportgroup.org.uk
Words by Chloe Glover
See also previous Salford Star article - NHS Has Heart Ripped Out - click here